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2010 Deadhorse Alaska Trip

'Tuesday June 1st, 2010 10:00'
This ride is over.

My unbelievable streak of multi-week rain luck has run out. The last 5 or so hours were spent driving through one of those annoying soaking New England rains, the kind that inexplicably penetrates through that which had been impervious during the worst downpours.

To add insult to injury my Garmin Nuvi GPS has completely given up the ghost so I stood there in the rain with paper maps trying to figure out where to find a motel.

I had wanted to ride further to get a more convenient and less isolated motel near something to eat but darkness, poor visibility and the blinding light of relentless oncoming traffic conspired to make riding downright dangerous. I pulled off at the first motel I could find.

But I digress.

I am very tired so we'll see how much of this I get done.

Thursday evening Phil suggested we take a ride over to a bike meet that takes place at a motorcycle safety gear cafe. Yea, I hadn't heard of such an establishment either.

Phil was having some trouble with an oil filter on his BMW. When he pulled the old filter off the old gasket stuck to the block and he didn't notice at the time. So he installed the new filter, with it's own gasket, on top of the old gasket. This is a serious leak and fire hazard waiting to happen. To make things more difficult, he couldn't get the filter off with the tools he had.

So he decided to dress the part and ride his cruiser instead.


Brain-bucket helmet and all. As has been the case since I've returned to the East Coast, traffic was just horrible. It took forever to get to the cafe. But once there, as described, it was a shop specializing in motorcycle safety gear and included an espresso bar.


I was pretty tired so I ordered an Americano which they served in porcelain. I walked around and took a look at the assortment of odd bikes that had assembled outside. There were a number from the Italian manufacturer Motoguzzi. Motoguzzi has almost a cult following. This model, which I had never seen before, led me to believe Motoguzzi is finally trying to join modern times.


I've never drawn to this brand.

I also happened on a Honda VFR700, which happened to be the bike Leonard rode to the Arctic Circle back in '92. That was the trip on which I got sick and had to drop out in Bellingham, Washington.


There was also a custom "street fighter" bike which I guess was based on a Suzuki GSXR.


There was even a Ural with a side car.


Ural is a Russian manufacturer that currently produces bikes that would have been behind the times in the 1940's. The model shown here was built in 2009. The paint was already faded and the thing was rusting.

There was quite an assortment of machines and a number of people. I was listening to one old guy talking on his cellphone trying to help someone diagnose some computer problem.


As I try to pay more attention to how I react to things emotionally, I began to awaken to the fact that I really didn't enjoy this meet. It was difficult to engage people in conversation. Most riders we observed coming into the parking lot had trouble handling their bikes.

It was as if the entire gathering had nothing to do with "motorcycling". I don't mean to be critical but it seemed to be a bunch of guys squawking at each other, "Look! I have a thing! It's such a pretty thing! I like my thing. You have a different thing. It is not as good as my thing. Look at my thing.". I imagined a bunch of seagulls.


I too have a thing. I like it because it helps me think and takes me to places in my own soul that I have found no other way to reach. I do not care if anyone looks at this thing of mine. I feel a bond to it because of experience and an appreciation for the ethic, insights and design sense of the men and women who created it. If I were to design a motorcycle it would be much like the one I have. It fits me. The aspects that are important to me don't seem to have much to do with the "thing" itself. It's not jewelry for me. It's a place and a doorway. Sometimes. I like to invite guests into this place so they can get a glimpse of what it is that I experience here.

Phil calls it my meditation chamber.

We headed back and met Valerie for dinner.

The next day was much as the previous days. Phil was done with work early and suggested that we take a drive down to the yacht club where his friend Thomas had a sailboat. We fought traffic for what seemed like an eternity to get there. On the way Phil made a few stops including one at a Snapon Tool Van to see about getting a proper tool to remove his oil fiter wrench.


I can't remember ever having been inside a Snapon tool truck before. Snapon arguably makes the best mechanics tools in the world. The joke is they are more expensive than their weight in gold.

This truck could be very hazardous to my wealth.

Things! Lot's of things! And with them I could fix so many more of the problems you and I don't have.

After a tour through the most prestigious yacht clubs that Massachussets has to offer, we arrived at the club where Thomas had his boat, a 1982 Tartan 37.


I had some phone calls to make which I took care of. They were all pleasantly patient with me. I had mentioned to Phil, after hearing more of his sailboat racing stories, that I thought it would be interesting to go sailing with him. I don't think I've been on a sailboat in over 10 years. He had explored several options and Thomas had agreed to take us all out the next day.

Thomas's girlfriend, Cinthia, who was extremely nice, always made certain that we had drinks in our hands. Unfortunately, Cinthia is allergic to dogs, so Phil and Valierie's dog, Bella, needed to stay on the dock.

I like this photo of the three of them.


We hung out for a while and then headed off to an Italian restaurant. I had wanted to take Phil and Valerie out to dinner as a way of saying thank you for all their hospitality. I had stayed with them much longer than I had thought I was going to.

The next day rolled around far too quickly. I was up and ready to go by 10AM as per Phil's instructions. Promptly at 11:30 we headed off to the boat. Phil had been concerned that there wouldn't be any wind on Saturday. Luckily for us, the weather forecast had been wrong.

What I did not know is that Thomas had only owned the vessel for two months and had not really sailed it properly. The boat had not yet been really shaken down and Phil flitted about with a dexterity that had to be seen to be believed, given how big he is, to get issues resolved prior to leaving the dock. We got underway surprisingly quickly and were soon in position to raise the main sail. Thomas mentioned that he had not yet raised the main since owning the boat.

Phil has a real talent for direction unskilled labor. Together we raised the main and before I knew it we were under sail.


Thomas and Cinthia were so nice and accommodating. There was an easy going nature about the both of them that was refreshing. Unlike the owners at the bike meet, they did not seem to be all that involved in the "thing" Thomas owned. They were so much more concerned about the experience, the moment, the having guests who appreciated the time.


The sun was shining. There was wind. The scenery was beautiful. Thomas, Phil and Cinthia were endlessly pointing out one major historical land mark after another.

Valerie, on the other hand, seemed to understand what sailboats are supposed to be for. Lounging.


Cinthia was alway ready to make someone a drink.


I have to admit I liked the boat, but sailing does seem like alot of work. Thomas had been in a very nasty accident some time ago. He fell off a roof three stories up and is badly damaged. He is in constant pain and walks with a cane. Phil was endlessly moving about expending all kinds of energy trimming the sails, adjusting things and generally supervising to make sure everything went smoothly.

Occasionally, Phil would get me involved in pulling lines and helping set things. I have virtually no sailing experience and what little I have is from decades ago.

But mostly I was allowed to just sit around and follow Valerie's lead.


Cinthia sat up on the highside rail as "railmeat".


She has a little web design company but I failed to get the URL for it.

At one point, Thomas asked if I could take the wheel. I have hundreds of hours behind the wheel of power boats but less than 20 behind the wheel of a sailboat. Steering this boat under sail on the open water proved to be challenging. It would move in unexpected ways and I found myself constantly overcompensating.


Once I was behind the wheel, Phil promptly went below and tried to go to sleep.

We pulled into a harbor and after some trial and error found a place to tie up and eat. The harbor was pretty.


A friend of Cinthia's joined us at the restaurant. His name was also Phil. An esoteric individual.

We stayed for quite a while but dinner seemed to be over before it started. We were back under sail before we knew it. I was keenly aware of how hard Phil was working to make everything a smooth experience.


As the sun started to set and the waves got choppier I decided to move to the bow.


I didn't get spashed much. With the sun setting and Thomas exclaiming, "I love life.", I said aloud, "Let us take a moment to consider those out there less fortunate than ourselves. At the present moment, that would include most of humanity."

This particular rare moment in life really did not suck in the least. As I sat on this rocking boat being moved erratically by rolling seas and a brisk wind, I once again considered the fact that I was sitting up on the bow alone, no one with whom I could say, at some future date, "do you remember that moment, there in the glow of the setting sun on that wonderful sailbot ...". There are just some moments in life that are really not supposed to be experienced alone.

I think Phil and Valerie understood this better than I did..


They put me behind the wheel again. With these larger seas, keeping the boat straight was even more challenging.


Thomas suggested a photo of the two of us. We really got along. Despite his agony and ill fortune his outlook is so much more positive than mine. He doesn't seem to have any of my darkness, but then again I didn't get to know him very well.


Eventually a sailboat started gaining on us and was on a course to cross our path too close for my comfort. I gave the wheel back to Thomas to let him deal with it.

The sun started to set over the horizon.


We sailed into the night.


We arrived at the dock around 8:30PM or so. Cinthia's daughter, Stephanie, showed up with her boyfriend. I think his name was Al, but I could be mistaken. I couldn't decide who she reminded me of. I kept coming up with the name Angelina Jolie, but that isn't right. It continues to bug me. I often have a talent to match patterns and can point out who someone is similar to. I've seen someone who looks and acts strikingly similar to Stephanie but for the life of me I can't place it.

We all hung out and chatted until well past 11PM. Phil was getting really tired having worked hard to make all of our lives as easy as they had been. So we left and headed back.

It had been a very good day.

I woke up around 9:30AM the next day, grabbed a shower, did a load of laundry and then packed up the bike to get ready to go.


Phil wanted to joiin me out to the New York State border. After some futzing with my exhaust, off we went.

There was alot of traffic at first and has been the case during all the rides with Phil, the pace was disquieting. If we end up doing significantly more miles together some more compromises in styles are going to have to be reached. He just rides too fast and aggressively for my comfort level.

But with the new exhaust in place and being able to engine brake, it was not nearly as challenging to keep up with him as it had been. Initially, the bike had been running alot warmer than before the exhaust had been installed. On this ride, however, the engine seemed to slowly cool down over time. I'm not sure why.

While I feel guilty about the fact that the new exhaust does not have a catalytic converter on it, I have to admit I'm enjoying the boost in power. It can really be felt.

We rode out route 2 West through Massachussets. It's a beautifully scenec road bounded by lush green fields and forests. I didn't want to stop to take photos since I was riding with Phil. After some hours, we arrived at the destination he had chosen. This wonderful little restaurant ontop of a hill with a spectacular view.


It had started to drizzle a bit.

We had lunch and I had copious amounts of brown colored water.

After a while it came time to part company. With a, "See ya, buddy", he was off. I futzed with my GPS for a while seeing if I could maybe coax it into reviving but being thwarted I suited up and headed to points West and South.


It began to rain within minutes. My luck, which has been unbelievably improbably, had finally run out.


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